Things you see

There is a lot to be said for being able to experience a drive without distractions. One of the hardest things to do with this car is to keep it below 60 kph on public roads. In other cars you can set the cruise control and be pretty safe in the knowledge that you are not going to exceed the speed limit (although you still do have to keep an eye on things going downhill). Travelling winding roads at such low speed really makes the car feel throttled and wasted. Unfortunately, a warning light appear very, very briefly on the dash during this low speed section. It was too quick for me to really see what it was but I believe it was the “5/8 Slow Down” warning light, which probably indicates that the temperature ECU on the other side of the engine to the one that was just changed is also not 100%. This isn’t a real surprise and luckily, now that it has happened before, what the results and costs will be are at least a known entity. Still, fingers crossed it was only a once off (although that seems unlikely). The issue should have been logged on the car’s computer and hopefully it will behave itself until it goes in for the next service.
Problem is that many other people also feel constrained doing 60 kph and become very ‘keen’ to get past you. Not a huge worry as there was dual carriage way ahead. The speed at which my follower took off after trailing behind me for a ways only made me shake my head and wish him all the best when explaining that excessive speed to the police officer who will inevitably pull him over. As much as you want to go faster than the limit, there ain’t no hiding in a red car like this!
Another thing that you do experience driving along is recognition from other ‘petrol heads’ out for the morning in their vehicles or bikes. Today’s arrangement includes an Aston Martin DB9 and a Lamborghini Murciélago.

Now the Lambo ended up following a ways and finished up in the next lane at the first set of lights after coming back onto the main road. It was a targa, with the roof currently off. There was a wave of acknowledgment from the driver as the cars moved away from the lights. What was amusing was that wave of acknowledgment came from a hand that was encased in a ski glove. Sure it was a bit nippy but if you need to rug up that much, wouldn’t the drive me more enjoyable with roof on? Each to their own I suppose. If you pay that much for a car like that then you can do whatever you dam well like one would think!
We both rejoined the freeway for the final blast back to civilization and by blast, that is exactly what the Lambo did after it cleared the entry ramp. In a flash it was gone, tearing up the freeway. Hmmmm…another potential high profile offender for the boys in blue. Not today, thank you for this car as it settled up to the speed limit for the final run back.
The challenge is now to find a bit of challenging tarmac that isn’t quite as limiting as the earlier section from today. Google maps here we come.

Woo hoo! No warning lights

Turned the car over and sat anxiously watching the dash to see if any warning lights would come on during the warm up phase. Nope, good to go Mr Sulu. Engage. (and yes I know they are from different generations of Star Trek. This blog is about cars not Star Trek so please read on).

Pulled into the petrol station to fill up. Remembered to open the fuel cap before switching the car off. Filled up, paid and was back on the road. I think I’m beginning to get the hang of this.

Cruised along the freeway at speed and turned off to take the windy road back. When driving through corners with gusto it is amazing at how well the car grips. No doubt, having a low centre of gravity, wide tyres  and firm suspension all helps but there is something more here.

While accelerating back onto the freeway was finally starting to get the ‘whiff of enjoyment’ one comes to expected with the car. There is still some way to go to achieve complete enjoyment and probably the next project is to get the exhaust by pass valve repaired so engine makes a better noise at high revs but that doesn’t prevent having the enjoyment of driving the car.

It was a good feeling to switch the motor off not having seen a warning light or having an ‘incident’ (self induced normally). It also didn’t hurt that a few people took some shots of the car, from their cars, as it cantered down the freeway. I certainly get the impression that the car likes the attention and maybe this is what it had been missing with the previously owner? Have not fear oh red one, as long as you start and keep running you can look forward to many driving “exposé”s and fuel infusions.

One of the other things you need to remember about these sort of cars is that generally they don’t have a spare. Yup, that’s right, no spare. Not even one of the ‘dicky’ space savers. If you get a flat then you are suppose to use the puncture repair spray that comes with the tool kit. The idea is that you use this to fill the tyre and it allows you to limp to somewhere to get the puncture repaired. Now Sal from Racing Red, said doing so ruins the tyre, which is certainly understandable, but sometimes a ruined tyre is a lot better than not being able to get back home. With this in mind it was probably time to have a look at the tyre repair ‘kit’.

This kit is normally found in the car’s tool kit which is located in the trunk at the front of the car (remember the engine is in the back). So I opened up the kit and found the repair canister.


Problem is the expiry date is Dec 96! So, will need to add one of these tyre repairs kits to ever growing shopping list. Wonder whether this old one is worth anything on EBay? Every dollar helps you know.

Well, almost

After having the Catalytic Thermocouple control unit changes yesterday today was a big day to see whether the car could be taken out without any issues manifesting themselves. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

A few minutes into the warm up of the vehicle the suspension warning light came on. This is the first time that this has appeared. Here’s what it means:

If any of the suspensions system’s electrical components malfunctions, the ECU lights the suspension malfunction warning light and regulates the shock absorbers to a fixed safety setting.

If one of the actuators malfunctions, the ECU may be unable to control it. This may cause the shock absorber regulated by that actuator to function continuously in one fixed setting. Even under these conditions the vehicle remain safe to drive. The ECU stores an error code for the malfunction in its internal memory.

If the suspension malfunction light comes on while the car is moving, stop that car, turn the ignition to “Stop” and then back to “On”. If the warning light does not comes on again, the malfunction was temporary (e.g. bad contact) and the system will operate normally.

So, I turned the engine off and back on and happily the light did not reappear. So that will be something recorded for the next time the cars computer gets read (hopefully a long while into the future).

The plan was to take the same course as last week to get a comparison of the vehicle with the new part. Maybe imagination and wishful thinking were playing games  but the car certainly seemed to have much better performance and power. Pulling off the freeway, the return trip via the more ‘scenic route’ was the most enjoyable it has been so far in the car. Although still not quite 100% the vehicle performed so much better and was far more responsive through the twists and turns. It is finally beginning to show what this car is all about.

Life is now a lot happier than it was last week with a car that functioning far closer to its potential. This is mainly thanks to Sal DiMauro from Racing Red whom the vehicle will continue to visit when it needs works form now on. However, there is still the is hope that one day, from turn over to shut down, the car will complete the journey without an unexpected warning or issue. Hope springs eternal eh? Or maybe that is delusional? Time will tell, but I think the car just needs some extra loving care to make it feel needed and then it will all be good. Fingers crosses that this loving care doesn’t mean too much of a bank overdraft!

Thermocouple control unit

The car hadn’t been driven since last week when it went into “limp mode”. Making contact with a few Ferrari mechanics confirmed my suspicions that it was probably a faulty thermocouple or thermocouple control unit that was the culprit. The problem was that there was a chance that the engine would not come out of limp mode even after it had seen switched off. Even if it did, given all the incidents that had occurred it was almost dead certain that it would reoccur. So the options seem to be to either switch off the battery (which is would remove power the memory of the car and remove the fault) or get it fixed. I chose the later.

Luckily, Sal DiMauro from Racing Red was able to make a house call to visit the sick patient. It seems that you can easily enough diagnose the issues but to do so you need the right equipment. This means a computer, interface box and software to read the diagnostics form the vehicle. Once that was hooked it was evident that issue lay with the thermocouple control unit.




There are two of these units, one on each side of the vehicle. They provide the interface from the thermocouple that monitors the catalytic converter temperature.

With the problem diagnosed all that was needed was to replace the unit.



The above shots show the new thermocouple control unit in place. The part is 179278 and can be found here –

The photo shows that the unit is held in place by a cable tie, this is not standard. Normally the unit is held in place by two screws through the body and is mounted underneath the Motronic control unit. Having the unit held in place by a cable tie seems to indicate that vehicle had been experiencing issues previously and was left this way so that swapping the units between engine banks would be easier in an effort to isolate the issue. At this stage it was determined to leave the configuration in place and resolve this at the next major service.

The new unit has a green epoxy base, the faulty unit did not.

With a new unit in place it is hoped that the “1/4 slow down” fault will not reappear. A HUGE thank you to Sal from Red Racing for attending to the issues on site.

Limp mode

Took the vehicle out again today with plans for a similar run as last week when the non starting issues emerged. That ended up being a user error so it would be interesting to see what happened today.

Pull over, open the filler cap, fuelled without issue. Started feeling good that perhaps this would be the first day without “issues” but that euphoria was soon dashed. A matter of moments after getting back onto the road the “1/4 Slow Down” light started to flicker again. Surely not? It seemed to follow it usual sequence of flickering, going on and then disappearing from the dash. However, this time the power did not return and the car suffered dramatic power loss as it went into “limp mode”. My understanding is that in this mode cylinders 1-4 get shut down to prevent the catalytic convert from overheating. That leaves you running on only cylinders 5-8.

That 50% loss of power makes a big difference to the performance of the car and you need to adjust the way you drive it accordingly. My thoughts were the issue would resolve itself as it had in past but unfortunately I was wrong. The loss of power continued driving along the freeway. Ok, time to turn around and head back home with my tail between my legs again.

After parking the vehicle I checked the engine to see if there were any signs of overheating, especially around the catalytic converters but there was none. That doesn’t mean they aren’t the problem but you get the feeling that it is a faulty thermocouple sensor. I suppose I could have stopped the car, turned the engine off, waited a little while and then fired it back up to see if the car would come out of limp mode but my biggest fear was not being able to get it home again so continuing on seemed the best option.

Oh what fun!

Rookie mistake

The vehicle had now been standing idle for a week. It had also been a week where the issues of the car failing to start had continued to nag at the consciousness. Even though various mechanics had been contacted about the issue all that they could offer was ‘bring it in and we’ll plug in the computer to see what the error code says’. Yeah, that wasn’t going to help if the thing didn’t start today now would it?

Deep breath. Turn the key, Crank, crank, crank, no start. Oh no, not again! Crank, crank, crank, no start. State of mild panic starting to escalate. Crank, crank, crank, no start. Nope. Resignation. There’s something wrong. It doesn’t sound as though it is even likely to start. What to do? What to do? Hang on a sec, why’s this little red light flashing on the console? Like D’Oh, the immobilizer is on and if that is on guess what? The engine won’t start. Press the remote to disable the immobilizer and now the engine starts. How dumb do you feel now?

It would therefore seem that the issue at the service station the previous week when filling up were exactly the thing. The immobilizer had enabled itself while pfafing around with the filler cap and as such the car wouldn’t start. How dumb do you feel now?

The feeling of accomplishment lasted about 30 minutes as out on the freeway the “1/4 Slow Down” light once again started to flash. Great. After a short while it came on solid which is an indication that it is time to stop the vehicle. But, after briefly slowing down a little the light disappeared. Hmmm…it would seem that this happened about the same time into the journey as last time. You get the impression that it is an issue with the thermocouple. Hopefully. Let’s keep going.

With the freeway journey completed without further incident, it was time to pay a visit to another car enthusiast. After the requisite swooning period, it was appropriate to remove the targa roof and take them for a spin. A few minutes into the journey the old “1/4 Slow Down” warning comes on again and then disappears, just to let you know that it is lonely.

At least this time someone else gets to see the warning and being a lot more experienced with cars my passenger finds that the top connection of the thermocouple is hanging loose. He manages to return it to its secure location after some hand and finger contortions. Maybe, the fact that it was loose was causing the warning light issue? Don’t know, time will tell on that score.

With the roof it was time to brave morning traffic and return the car home,

As the car ticked itself cool from its adventures today it was somewhat pleasing to get to the bottom of the engine not starting issues but disappointing that the “1/4 Slow Down” warning continues to reappear. The car continues its attempts at intimidation but that is now becoming somewhat more familiar. The hope is that it will soon be accepting of its new occupant and stop trying to throw them.

Worst fears

After picking up the vehicle the day before it was now time to give the machine a run along the more accommodating freeways. Deciding on an early start, to avoid traffic, the F355 emerged from the garage and waited at the lights to the main road. Although the petrol level wasn’t critical, now would probably be a good time to fill the car up.

Pulled into the petrol station and pressed the button on the centre console to open the filler cap. Upon getting out of the car and going around to that side of the vehicle it was discovered that the filler cap was in fact still closed. The natural conclusion is that that car needs to be running for the button to open the cap. Jump back into the car and try and start the car. It cranks but then fails to start. On no! Please no! Try again. Still no go. Mild panic begins to set in. Visions of towing, repair bills being to fill one’s mind. Try once more. Still won’t start. In a non starting Ferrari EVERY one can hear you scream and worst of all can see you as well.

This is not looking good. The best option is probably to call for road side assistance but for that the nearest side street will be required. It is almost as if you are strolling around naked as you walk away from the service station and away from the car towards the nearest intersection holding a mobile phone to you ear and wearing a pained look no doubt.

As luck would have it the call for assistance dropped out. Let’s give this one more try. Unlock the car, get in and this time it fires up! Ok, what to do here? Continue to fill it up or drive it back? Filling it up will mean turning the engine off and there maybe a chance that it won’t fire up again after that. Decisions, decisions. No, we are here now and the car need fuel so let’s open the filler cap with the engine running, turn the car off and fill it up. If it doesn’t fire afterwards then we’ll just deal with that then.

Such antics had by now attracted a bit of crowd of onlookers going about their morning business. Judging that things were a little more positive with the car, they had  after all heard it start, came over to inspect the beast. A few nervous laughs and dismissive comments the crowd disbursed back to their own vehicle to either watch the next episode or get on with their business. Seems like having an audience is part and parcel of driving a vehicle like this. However, in this situation it isn’t something that is enjoyable.

Car filled, monies paid and with fingers crossed the key was once again turned. Without hesitation the car started and what remained of one’s dignity could now roll out of the service station.

The car performed flawlessly through the remainder of its trip but the failing to start incident continued to haunt during the week. As you will discover in the next post the issue for the vehicle failing to start was that the engine immoboiliser had engaged during the process of pfafing around with the filler cap. Failing to notice this of course meant the car would not start. D’OH!

Let the intimidation start

After much heartache and anxiety the decision had been made and it was time to actually take delivery. A train trip to the dealer provided plenty of time to reflect on the choices made and whether it was such a smart move. Upon reflection, it would seem that actually purchasing a Ferrari F355 is not the issue, the issue is more around things you never think of, like insurance, garaging, cleaning and so on. However, the commitment had been undertaken and it was time to live the dream.

Finally taking the keys and starting the vehicle is a very alien feeling. The Ferrari F355 is very different from other cars, especially from a drivers perspective. It is more ‘analogue’ than most modern cars, it sounds very different and most importantly it ‘feels’ very different simply by virtue of being a Ferrari. Pulling away from the curb outside the dealer is a surreal experience. The responsibility for the vehicle is now all yours. Strangely enough, your thoughts are consumed more by the negative that the positives. So the intimidation has commenced.

Driving the F355 through city traffic is again a  surreal experience as you are now inside what you have only admired previously from the outside. Now you have entered the rarefied atmosphere of being behind the wheel. Problem is, in city traffic, you have to deal with other vehicles and doing so for the first time is somewhat nerve racking. The other challenge is actually sticking to speed limit. You are now in a car that gets noticed even when it is standing still, you know that many eyes, including speed cameras, are now watching.

All appeared to be going smoothly until about thirty minutes into the drive when the “1/4 Slow down” light started to flicker on the dash. This is accompanied by an immediate loss of power as cylinders 1 through 4 are shut down. This warning light is an indication that the catalytic converters are overheating. Interestingly, the vehicle was travelling less than 40 Kmph in a freeway construction zone. Exactly the same issue had surfaced at almost exactly the same time for the author of “One Year with a Ferrari“. Reading the book is a very worthwhile experience for anyone considering an F355 but it was very deflating to see such a problem with the car almost immediately.

Carrying on, through the freeway construction zone, resulted in the “1/4 Slow down” warning not reappearing. There was a chance that the issue had something to do with the thermocouple reading the temperature rather than the catalytic converters. Something to make a mental note of now coming off the freeway and back onto suburban roads. A few moments later the vehicle was stationery and ticking itself cool. There was a general sigh of relief as the very first experience with the car was now complete.

The next challenge for the driver and vehicle was to see whether it would fit in what appeared to be a somewhat narrow garage area. Arrival at the door, deep breath, and in we go. So getting in is ok, now what about getting out? A few moments later the F355 emerged successfully from the exit to the garage. Phew. A big sigh of relief. Really didn’t know what would of happened if it hadn’t been able to get out of there. Time to park the beast and walk away for today.

Like any new car, getting acquainted takes time and a few of the major concerns had been answered but another one (the “1/4 Slow Down” warning light) had been raise. Yet on balance the positives outweighed the negatives and relationship had passed its first major test.